April 5, 2019
Walls and Bridges
The Trump administration continues to reach new lows in its treatment of refugees from Central America. Last week, the situation of asylum seekers detained underneath a bridge in El Paso became a national story. It is worth taking a minute to watch this video from the Los Angeles Times to appreciate the conditions people were being held in.
The New Colossus, the poem by Emma Lazarus which adorns the Statue of Liberty, is worth reading in its entirety.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
This notion of a nation of immigrants, in past times welcomed into a melting pot of culture, is an important part of the mythology of the United States. It constitutes the ideological sinews we flex under the banner of (U.S.) American exceptionalism. All are welcome!
The picture and video we have seen above, along with so many other stories we have shared and seen and heard, tell us this narrative is false.
And yet, we actually want to be this country. Right? Not an imperial giant, “with conquering limbs astride from land to land;” but, rather, we can become the Mother of Exiles.
For now, it seems the United States remains a version of that very old Colossus, the one that seeks to dominate and exclude. A fading empire, holding onto power with sporadic explosions of extreme violence, visited upon the people of this earth.We lift no lamp. We offer walls to block passage, and bridges – usually understood as means of unifying two places – become pens under which we hold people like farm animals. Provisions are subcontracted out to companies that make millions on this immiseration.
The profits of pain grow. It is the endgame of empire, played with cruelty.
Yet those who resist, who welcome, who share, and work toward building a more world justly loving, are all around. The light snuffed out by official policy is reignited among us, among you.
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